by Mary Noble Garcia

About two years ago I was invited to be a part of a women’s writing group.  My first response was, “Me?  I am not a writer.”  In my prayer I felt a nudge to listen to a very quiet voice that said, “What a great opportunity!”  I was reminded of author Christine Valters Paintner’s image of a table with voices seated around it in our interior landscape which I have adapted for my work in spiritual direction.

Imagine a big round table with many chairs around it. The light of Love illuminates the table to help us see and hear clearly.  Each seat is taken by a voice that resides within. Most of the voices have helped us in some way to grow, to be safe or successful. Other voices were silenced or quieted at some point in our lives by criticism, a harsh word, or misunderstanding.

As I reflect on my day, I go around the table and ask, “Which voices influenced my reactions and choices?  Which voices am I unable to hear? Which honor my authentic self?  Which draw me closer to God?”  I begin to recognize the voices that are loud and are no longer helpful.  The voice that says, “I am not a writer” may have motivated me to put extra time and energy into my writing for work or college. At the same time, I recognize that at this moment in my life she is a barrier to my growth. I decide to respond to her in a new way.  I begin by thanking her for the ways she helped me.  I then offer her tea and ask her to be quiet so I can hear the voice that is urging me to step into the unknown saying, “You can tolerate the discomfort of trying something new. What a great opportunity!”  In the same manner, I can begin to hear and listen to the voices of compassion, curiosity, creativity, and loving kindness when I offer tea to the voice of “I should . . .” and those with an edge of judgment, criticism, and fear.

I sit at the table of my writing group with generous, nonjudgmental, compassionate women who have helped me to recognize and listen to the voices around my interior table that have been quiet for so long.  Those quiet voices are inviting me to embrace the possibility that with my own unique style, maybe I am a writer.